I am tempted to get a little saucy this week after a weekend dinner with a charming, heterosexual, unmarried man in his 40s. I am more excited to be able to disprove the theory (shared mostly by men) that it is not possible for women to have male ‘friends’, break bread and share certain intimacies, when they are involved or married to other men, without complications.
Is flirting permitted? Why not, it’s healthy. What about food and drink? Yes, of course, you can drink. What about food? Well, this is where you have to keep it simple. Start ordering lobster thermidor and oysters and you may run into some trouble.
Food and sex have been linked forever. We tend to woo the opposite sex over dinner or a drink. Rarely has a seduction taken place over a chat about textiles or the share index. Lobsters, oysters, bitter chocolate, ginger and chilli are the traditional staples to get you going. Rare steak is supposed to do it for men, seafood salad for women. And hazelnuts are, I hear, the new age ‘health’ aphrodisiac. Food aside, you can always blame alcohol for all sorts of behaviour.
When you were younger, a bar of chocolate, a bottle of beer and the back of a car is probably all you needed to fuel the passion. As you get older, the mechanics of wooing become more complex, more subtle and more expensive. We want to be wined and dined in the finest restaurants, we want expensive gifts, and an exotic holiday wouldn’t hurt.
I have no great faith in the advertised aphrodisiac qualities of certain foodstuffs, because given the right atmosphere, you can become very passionate on just about anything, just as you can remain frigid on a diet of lobster.
One of my favourite food writers, Clement Freud, has something very pertinent to say on the subject. “It is possible to achieve one’s amorous ends by choosing the right food and the right drink and presenting it to the right person in the right way at the right time… There is one danger; when all is so carefully planned, Eros is inclined to strike before the fish course! This is a terrible waste of underdone beef, passion fruit ice cream, mint tea et al...”
Personally, I think oysters are overrated. The last time I went to Wheelers and ordered half-a-dozen Whitstables, only one of them worked. As Ovid wrote: “Women can always be caught: that is the first rule of the game. If all goes well, great nuts and cream toast and ginger marmalade and some good hot strong coffee should be the next kitchen chore for you.”
So, here is a sure shot that should suit both carnivores and vegetarians and non-alcoholics, since most people I come across seem to have a sweet tooth. It contains the new aphrodisiac on the block, hazelnuts, now available all over India.
Vanilla and caramel parfait
A sinful dessert that takes under 15 minutes to prepare
Just under 1 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup cream
500gm vanilla ice cream
200gm hazelnut chikki
For the hazelnut chikki:
This nut toffee is a useful standby to sprinkle over an ice cream or to add to other desserts. It keeps well in a screw-top jar.
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, slightly crushed
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 cup sugar
For the hazelnut chikki: Spread nuts and seeds over a lightly oiled baking tray. Dissolve sugar in water over heat and cook until a deep amber. Pour over nuts and seeds and let harden. Break into pieces and store in a screw-top jar.
For the caramel sauce: Heat butter in a heavy-based pan. Add sugar and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer, without boiling, until golden. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in cream and whisk until smooth. Cool. Layer the ice cream, hazelnut chikki and caramel sauce and divide between four tall glasses. Reserve some of the chikki for decoration. If you are in a real hurry, use ready-made caramel or butterscotch sauce.
Write to Karen Anand at email@example.com